high weir

July 1, 2006

Currently Reading: Housekeeping

Filed under: Readings — jstreed1476 @ 2:22 pm

For the second time in about three years, I’m reading Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping. It’s an amazing book in all kinds of ways, and the best comment on it is Doris Lessing’s: “I found myself reading slowly, then more slowly–this is not a novel to be hurried through, for every sentence is a delight.” I grant that Robinson’s prose has a lyrical intensity that not every reader will enjoy–like much of Annie Dillard’s work (e.g. Holy the Firm), it doesn’t take a breather, so to speak. But to my eye, it’s beautiful.

One evening one summer she went out to the garden. The earth n the rows was light and soft as cinders, pale clay yellow, and the trees and plants were ripe, ordinary green and full of comfortable rustlings. And above the pale earth and bright trees the sky was the dark blue of ashes. As she knelt in the rows she heard the hollyhocks thump against the shed wall. She felt the hair lifted from her neck by a swift, watery wind, and she saw the trees fill with wind and heard their trunks creak like masts. She burrowed her hand under a potato plant and felt gingerly for the new potatoes in their dry net of roots, smooth as eggs. She put them in her apron and walked back to the house thinking, What have I seen, what have I seen. The earth and the sky and the garden, not as they always are. And she saw her daughters’ faces not as they always are, or as other people’s were, and she was quiet and aloof and watchful, not to startle the strangeness away. She had never taught them to be kind to her.

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